Retirement years more secure now but room to do more

The Budget has made retirement more secure for Singaporeans but more can be done, according to panellists at The Straits Times Budget roundtable.

Former Nominated MP Kanwaljit Soin suggested extending the Silver Support Scheme to more elderly people. She also suggested implementing a universal pension scheme.

The broad details of the Silver Support Scheme were announced in Monday's Budget.

It will be rolled out in the first quarter of next year and aims to support the bottom 20 per cent of Singaporeans aged 65 and older. A smaller degree of support will be extended to cover up to 30 per cent of seniors.

Dr Soin said the scheme is a "good beginning but definitely not enough". Among the retiree households in HDB dwellings, an average of 36 to 42 per cent of their income was derived from contributions from relatives and friends not living in the same households, according to the Household Expenditure Survey 2012-2013.

But even with this additional income support, about 60 per cent of these retirees were still unable to meet their monthly expenditure. "Just by giving the Silver Support Scheme to 20 per cent or 30 per cent of (these elderly), it is not going to alleviate the relative poverty of many of our retiree households, though the scheme may relieve absolute poverty," said Dr Soin.

She also called for a basic pension for all Singaporeans above a certain age to "celebrate and honour our elderly".

Mr Paul Heng said Singaporeans need more support in planning for their old age.

"A lot of people that I coach come to us and they don't have a plan for when they grow old. They try to take things as they come," he added.

"One of the things that might be useful for companies... is to provide the infrastructure and the support for people to plan how to grow old. Ultimately, though, it's up to individuals to plan for their retirement."

Mr Thomas Chua agreed that employers have a vital role to play: "I've been asked whether the increase in CPF contributions for older workers will discourage employers from hiring them. My answer is no, it won't, partly because of the labour crunch.

"It is important to help this group of senior employees play their part and give them the right job so they can contribute."

CHIA YAN MIN

Video clips of the roundtable and more reports are available at www.straitstimes.com/budget-2015